Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Another local option for dealing with the 'Bedroom Tax' ?

Yesterday I wrote to Lambeth council leader Lib Peck asking for a commitment not to evict tenants who fall foul of the Government's 'Bedroom Tax'.

On the Guardian website today is a story that points to an additional course of action that Lambeth might be able to take.

It concerns Knowsley Housing Trust, who have reclassified nearly 600 family homes as smaller properties. This will exempt tenants from having their housing benefit reduced by the Bedroom Tax.  It is conceivable that a local authority could do the same with its own housing stock, particularly given that Lambeth faces similar problems regarding a lack of suitable smaller housing for tenants to downsize to.

The legal situation regarding whether a council might be able to do this is already being discussed:
While the bedroom tax statute is silent on what constitutes a bedroom, there is plenty of statute that could provide a definition, e.g  Part X Housing Act 1985 – the statutory overcrowding provisions: 
  • more than 110 sq feet (10.2 sq metres approx) = 2 people
  • 90 – 109 sq ft (8.4 – 10.2 sq m approx) = 1.5 people
  • 70 – 89 sq ft (6.5 – 8.4 sq m approx) = 1 person
  • 50 – 69 sq ft (4.6 – 6.5 sq m approx) = 0.5 people.
  • Less that 50 sq ft = not suitable as sleeping accommodation
Then there are the HMO regulations, Housing Act 2004, which sets a minimum of 6.5 sq m as a bedroom where there is a communal living room (or 10 sq m where there isn’t.) 
Some local authorities also have their own HMO licensing standards, which set minimum bedroom sizes. 
Arguably, any or all of these would be of relevance to whether what is identified in the tenancy agreement as a bedroom is lawfully so-called, and thus whether the bedroom tax should apply.

I have raised this with a councillor who had also seen the story, and asked whether this is something Lambeth could explore.  Let's see what happens...

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